It’s been little more than 100 years since a B.C. family lost a relative in the First World War.
Private Antonio Donatelli died on the battlefield in Europe on Sept. 27, 1918, just months after he enlisted with the B.C. regiment of the Canadian Infantry in New Westminster.
In honour of the 24-year-old’s sacrifice to his country, Donatelli’s family received a memorial plaque, also known as a “Dead Man’s Penny.”
The whereabouts of that bronze memento has been a mystery for much of the past century. Until now, that is.
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In 2006, Port Moody-based historian Guy Black purchased Donatelli’s memorial plaque after discovering it at a local antique store.
Earlier this year, he decided it was time to track down the family of the fallen soldier.
“I just thought it was important on the anniversary of the end of World War One that the family should have the plaque,” Black told Global News.
Black traced the original death plaque to George and Andrew Donatelli of Mission, B.C., the nephew and great-nephew of Antonio Donatelli.
“That’s pretty, pretty amazing,” George Donatelli said when Black gifted him the precious family memento.
“Guy had mentioned it to me and I had never heard of it, so this is really something.”
Andrew Donatelli told Global News he and his wife met a Belgian couple by chance on a recent vacation to Hawaii. After getting acquainted, Andrew learned Steve Contador Compernolle and his spouse live about an hour away from where Antonio Donatelli is buried in Pas de Calais, France.
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The Compernolles paid a visit to the Canadian soldier’s grave at Quarrywood Cemetery last Remembrance Day — and signed the guestbook on Andrew’s behalf.
“He said that they’re going to go back every year cause they feel like they have a personal connection,” Andrew Donatelli said.
Antonio Donatelli’s War and Victory medals are still missing but Black hopes they, too, may turn up in the future.
For now, the fallen soldier’s family is planning to frame the death plaque they never knew existed.
“I think we should display it,” George Donatelli said.